Writing retreat


My family sent me on a trip so I could write. I posted my plans on Facebook whilst I sat in Preston Brucciani’s, sipping coffee, waiting for my train. “Sounds great,” said a friend, “but what does a writing trip consist of?”

“It consists of writing.” I replied.

I’ve spent four days totally alone in this hotel room. I’m in a nameless city, a little north of the border. I don’t know anyone here and I’m avoiding even googling places I could visit. Everything is centred on writing.

My room is a gift, everything I wanted: very clean, very plain, piles of soft towels and crisp white bed linen, a kettle for tea, good internet. I’m a stone’s throw from Starbucks and Sainsbury’s. First night here I went out to a Japanese Restuarant and ordered chicken and rice. It wasn’t the same without company. I’ve eaten in my room since then, yogurts and sandwiches and packets of crisps.

One night I woke at three and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I slipped out of the crisp white bed sheets and boiled that kettle. I sat on the sill of the floor to ceiling window, drinking tea, seventeen floors up and watching the city at night. Clear lines of lights, twinkled into the distance making the roads and the streets where the unknown people live and work shine. The night people stand in twos and threes sharing cigarettes, in doorways and on benches in pedestrianised streets under the trees. There are taxis and road sweepers moving determinedly through the darkened streets. I am entirely alone, anonymous but happy, high up behind the glass watching it unfold.

A lovely friend was praying for me last week in church and I was a blubbering wreck. It took me by surprise. Everything started falling away from me fast and I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing. I sobbed and just let Andy hold me. Let’s not say it out loud, I’m afraid and secretly ready to give it all up; writing, recovery, everything. I know these crazy thoughts from my past, and know they can sometimes ambush me like this. There was a time when a thought like this could fell me, but not anymore.

Just as I dried my tears and cleaned myself up, a dear acquaintance, but not a person I knew very well, came found me, just to say he liked to read my blog and eagerly anticipated each new post. Who knew?

A few days later we were all in the kitchen after a meal and I tell the story. “Do you think that was God telling me to keep writing?” I nervously ask my husband and, my boys. They just smile and shake their heads.

So I’m writing. And turns out, a little time alone with Pages and some Post-It notes was just what I needed to teach myself something about my creative process and the job in hand.

If you’re a creative person I can’t speak highly enough of making some time in your schedule to work on your project without any distractions. If you’re someone with a callings on your life and big plans for the future, I’d really recommend a little homemade retreat even for the shortest time. Pray, write, read, think.

This is what I learnt.

1. I really do love to write. Sometimes my fingers fly across the key board and I can feel the metre of the words moving from my head through my hands and onto the page. It’s completely exhilarating ( and full of typos!). At other times it’s much slower, but with patience and quiet I’ve seen that the words still come.
2. Writing a book is much harder that writing a blog piece but I have a much clearer idea of the what I need to do to make this writing into a book not just a series of disjointed essays.
3. It’s hard to measure what is your best work practice or your most creative time of day when you are trying to create between day jobs, domestic tasks and family demands. Alone in my hotel room I noticed that I work slowly in the mornings and pick up as the day goes on. I like to work into the night.
4. It’s easy to make unrealistic estimations of how much writing work can be done in a day and then blame short falls on other people disturbing you. I have been working for 6-8 hours a day and writing about 5 000 words. That’s without any demands or distractions. I need to remember that at home my daily word count is bound to be less.
5. I still have a lot of hard work to do if I’m going to produce the book I’ve been thinking about but I do now have a few fledgling chapters all about making sure our sad does not become depressed and other ways of living life full.

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Saviour, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.
Jude 24-25 The Message



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